Saturday, September 28, 2013

Beer and football IV — week four

The game: Patriots at Falcons
The beer: The Tap Sassy Rabbit Rye Ale
The result: Win, 30–23
The commentary: One night last week I stayed a little late at work and walked the Greenway to North Station for my ride home. I knew the carousel had finally reopened (great idea to renovate over the Summer, fellas) but I was not prepared for how G-ready the work had made it. Owls! Squirrels! Butterflies! Whales! Turtles! It's a favorite-animal extravaganza, all we're missing are elephants and monkeys. I texted A. that we must venture into the city on Saturday and blow G's little mind. So that's what we did.

After breakfast at Flour, where G. devoured an egg sandwich and made eyes with a friendly old haberdasher or statistician or something, we walked along the missing shadow of 93 and found one of the whimsical "Play Me, I'm Yours" pianos scattered about the city (a series of public art installations). A. and I temporarily got over our fear of germs and plopped G. right onto the devil's bench, stepped back and listened to her bash out a passable version of "In the Court of the Crimson King." Impressive talent! Impressive parenting.

The carousel was the expected hit. Mom rode with G. first and dad the second and third times. It was wonderful, though the moments when your child's heart is actively breaking as you walk away from all they desire are the hardest. After an extended stop at the Artist's Impulse Jewelry Purchase Fair we swung by Atlantic Wharf, watched some tourists throw tea into Fort Point Channel (the same body of water that swallowed my old phone) and helped some Boston expats take a family picture, marveling with them at what that part of the city had been only a few years earlier: the Federal Reserve, the Harpoon brewery and a mile-wide parking lot in between.

Passage of time is a remarkable thing. Forgetting for a moment that my daughter is two—two!—we've owned a home for five years. I've been at the same job for more than seven and married almost as long. Publishing, resignation and unemployment are ten years behind. Weekly Friday visits to the Common Ground (who only started calling themselves "CG" after we did) ended a four-year run a dozen years ago, shortly before I moved to Northampton. $9.99 Harp twelve-packs. Jedi Outcast. Parking in her landlord's driveway. Butthole Surfers on the "beach." ER at Boston City. Patrick Roy. What were you doing in 1992? There's just no way.

The game… I don't remember. Not much actual football writing so far this year. The late comeback was a little daunting and reminded us that, no matter what any homers have to say, this defense still sucks. Nice progress by the offense though and hopefully that can keep improving. The beer? "Bunnee!" Not as good as its label.

Up next: The Patriots travel to Cincinnati. The Misfits travel to Nashua. Cheers!

Beer and football IV — weeks two and three

Week two
The game: Jets at Patriots
The beer: Maine Peeper Ale
The result: Win, 13–10
The commentary: What's the sound of grown men crying for a solid week? All I remember from this game is four hours of Mike Mayock talking about Geno Smith's lousy "internal clock" and how the Patriot rookie receivers "can't get on the same page" as Brady. That's it: lousy rookie quarterback for the Jets, lousy rookie receivers for the Pats. No analysis as to what led each team to rely so heavily on these rookies or any culpability on the parts of the coaching staffs or veteran players. It's easy to criticize rookies, that way you don't injure your personal relationship with Belichick—maybe it's a blessing to be stuck with ESPN on draft night after all. Admittedly, it did seem to be Thompson's or Dobson's fault a lot of the time (mostly giving up on routes or, egregiously, just standing still along the sideline or at the back of the end zone) but I don't know anything about football—just ask the fucking Bears. Elsewhere, the most exciting sequence was "playmaker" Aqib Talib forcing a turnover by accidentally kicking a ball out of someone's hands after that someone scorched him for a thirty-yard reception. The post-Ty Law defense will surely be the death of me.

I wasn't kidding when I said Maine produces nothing but good beer: the Peeper is a stone-cold stunner. What?? This is one of the ones I picked up in Northampton a few weeks ago. It was closer to an English pint than an American bomber (standard measure of volume) but I didn't mind. Too much.

The Thursday game allowed us to go apple-picking on Sunday, along with every other Patriots fan in the world. I think the farmhands were knocking down trees all day to accommodate more cars. We didn't actually pick any apples because that required riding in a wagon to go somewhere else, and that seemed a little silly. So we let G. play with some pumpkins and then went off to visit a few farm animals. We also ran into everyone A. has ever known in her life. It was fun until G. had a total meltdown and we got the hell out of there. Somehow it didn't take forever to get back to the main road.

Week three
The game: Bucaneers at Patriots
The beer: Bear Republic Racer 5 India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 23–3
The commentary: Guess what happens when you're almost forty, you're a family man and a fancy new mall opens up a couple of towns away: you go spend the morning there! Market Street (with a very MTV logo) is now open in the sleepy, wealthy town of Lynnfield. We don't even have to get on 128! Whole Foods, Starbucks and bunch of other yuppie stores I've never heard of. I'm afraid we're yuppies now so we got breakfast at Starbucks (G. ate most of my sausage, egg and cheese sandwich) and stopped at Whole Foods on the way out (A. said it was the best grocery store she's ever been in, except for the somehow gorgeous co-op in an otherwise scummy Brattleboro). In between we spent most of our time chasing G. in and around a little play area right outside Starbucks. Clearly she was loving life that Saturday but I promise she wasn't as stoned as she looks.

What's the sound of grown men declaring this the greatest defense in NFL history after three weeks of play? It's all ups or downs here, nothing in between. I suppose I understand the need to manufacture discussion/debate with six (or nine) twenty-four-hour news cycles in between games, but that's only because I'm able to avoid the lot of it. Mike Reiss and PFW keep me grounded, then I watch the games and reach my own conclusions. Like how everybody is calling Aqib Talib one of the top cornerbacks in the league? Well, maybe he is. But the pick off of Freeman the other day was the first of his three that really felt like an interception. The two against the Jets were of the Kyle Arrington variety, in that they were thrown right at him and/or ended up in his hands by chance. A turnover is a turnover, and if Talib continues to create interceptions like this then we really do have the greatest defense in sports history. Let's just relax a bit.

G. missed the game again. That's three in a row and she is pissed. On this day she went to Cambridge with mom so it was just Chloe and I at home. I had some time to myself after the game and went batshit crazy taking pictures of records and CDs to sell on eBay, some of the rarer stuff like the first and third White Stripes singles, the "gold" reissues of the Pretty Things' SF Sorrow and Parachute, etc. So far I've had one listing come and go without a buyer and I expect that to happen to five more later today. Keep on keepin' on, right? My payday will come.

I actually didn't drink during the game. Friday night a few of us went out after work and I pounded four of these bastard IPAs before catching my 8:30 train by a matter of seconds. I seem to be coming around to hoppy beers lately. Or I'm a degenerate drunk who'll take what he can get, as in later that night with wine: the Dexter finale! I haven't read it yet but The Onion's AV Club review gave it an F. They must have finally gone the satirical route along with the rest of the site. Meanwhile, every episode of the last two seasons of Mad Men earned like an A+ from them. One of my favorite scenes ever on the show happened to fall in season five, when Ginsberg told Peggy that he was from Mars. It was powerful stuff and a complete throwaway. Aside from this there are maybe five genuinely special sequences in the entire series: the "carousel" pitch, Kennedy's assassination, the new agency, Don's realization that Joan had already whored herself out and Lane's multi-episode downfall. Don married his secretary? I don't care. Peggy left? And now she's back? I don't care. Mad Men can afford to play "Tomorrow Never Knows" over the credits? Self-aware irony is unbecoming and odd all over. And Roger? Roger! Who cares.

Dexter though? How was it supposed to end? He'd been getting out of no-way-he-can-get-out-of-this situations for years and suddenly it's ridiculous that he can survive a hurricane? More broadly, was a happy ending even reasonable? Hannah didn't bother to cut and/or color her hair so I wasn't expecting her to get away according to plan (even though she sort of did). Someone close to Dexter had to die because someone close to Dexter always died. It's what kept me watching, what made me a little hesitant to whole heartedly root for a murderer. I enjoyed it. (Masuka's daughter though? Who cares.)

Up next: Hotlanta! Cheers!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beer and football IV: The trick today will be to try to affect fate’s great wheel

Week one
The game: Patriots at Bills
The beer: Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale
The result: Win, 23–21; Bengals/Jarrod lose, 24–21
The commentary: Longtime readers (!) might recall this whole "beer and football" thing I started years ago when an innocent, shockingly handsome thirty-something guy got drunk on Samuel Smith pints each Autumn Sunday in the People's Republic. I drank any variety I could find during every single game of the 2007/2008 season, otherwise known as "16–0," and we all remember what happened. Later efforts were equally unsatisfying. So where do I get off opening the season with a classic, the first of theirs I'd ever had, the Nut Brown Ale that is fated to doom the season? Ask me in December.

Is it me or was this the week of the safety? I mean the two-point play, not the defensive position—I didn't hear McCourty's name all game. I paid more attention to the score crawl than usual for reasons I'll get to in a minute, but it seemed like every other team had two points or five points. (Funny thing about two-point plays is that G. is now two years old. Fate! Alas, she'll likely—when all goes well—nap through one o'clock games this season.) Just a strange observation, or rather an astute observation of a strange thing, without a single hackneyed Pro Football Talk headline in sight.

It's week one and it's a win. Everyone around here is totally freaking out because the Pats didn't win by two touchdowns. The game was a lot closer than I expected it to be but I was never worried, even when the Bills had the lead and the ball with six minutes left. In a related note, I'd feel encouraged if I were a Bills fan. (Shudder.) Manuel looked pretty good and held up alright during his first pro game. They put some decent pressure on Brady a lot of the day. Their tight end didn't murder anyone. We'll see in a few hours what the Jets look like but I'll be surprised if the Bills finish below them at the end of the year. (Only if Marrone isn't so trigger happy with the challenge flag—I'm impressed he didn't contest Ridley's lost fumble so that's a step in the right direction.)

About that crawl: on Friday a work friend asked if I wanted to participate in a "suicide fantasy league." When I told him I had no idea what that was he clarified that it was a simple knockout pool. "I'm in!" Ten bucks, Bengals over Bears. Rats. Later on, when I explained to A. that Jay Cutler lost us ten bucks, I went on a rant about how fantasy football and the Red Zone Channel exist merely to reward people who aren't actually football fans. What's the point of being alerted that a team is about to score a touchdown if I didn't see how they advanced that far? Why would I care how many catches Calvin Johnson has if I'm not interested in the Lions' success or failure? Fake football fans used to watch a few minutes of Sportscenter to stay in the loop, now they spend all night coming up with clever pop-culture names for their fantasy teams. To hell with that.

Also in this category is channel four's postgame exit poll. Escalating New England's reputation as a part of the country that loves its overachieving white players, Captain Crazy Eyes asked "Which Patriots receiver was more clutch today: Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola?" Shane Vereen—technically a running back, but why not ask "Which Patriots player…"?—had over one hundred and fifty total yards, and (though it wasn't yet known) it turns out he played the whole game with a broken hand, for crying out loud! Definitely to hell with them. With the whole lot of them!

Up next: The Jets visit Foxborough tonight and unveil the Super Bowl trophy they apparently won last week. Cheers!